The World of Female LEGO Fans – Part 1 is Sarah’s research project and baby (please go here to contribute and/or follow the discussion). However I could not help but share of what I have found today. I guess the topic of boys, girls and LEGO must be in the air! 😛
Fast Company (one of the most progressive business, technology, economy magazines in the world) has published an article on their website from contributor Belinda Parmar (aka. “Lady Geek“). The article is titled; Sugar & Spice: Unearthing the Gender Divide
The reason I found this article so interesting is because throughout her post she uses LEGO as an example of an archetypical toy for boys. That doesn’t stand very well with me as a female LEGO hobbyist! She starts out:
Would girls really opt for pink (a color considered highly masculine up to the 19th century) and boys veer towards the LEGO-aisle if the world didn’t continually tell them they were hard-wired to do so? The nurture/nature debate is as old as the sexual differences that spawned it, but with two young children of my own (one boy, one girl) who seem to conform to gender-type in spite of my encouraging them to make their own choices, I have begun to wonder just when (and why) sexual differences persist.
Then she turns to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a world expert on what makes boys different from girls. Here is part of their conversation:
I have a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl, and despite raising them the same way, they’ve turned out completely differently. How can you explain this?
In tests, on average boys show more interest in games like LEGO, and girls are more interested in dolls, acting out social stories where they inject emotions and thoughts into the plastic figures. LEGO is just one example of systemizing; this is the drive to build or analyze a system, which is simply anything that follows rules or patterns. So you are looking for consistent repeating patterns, and boys on average seem to show a stronger interest in systems, whereas girls develop social skills more quickly. I talk about this in terms of empathy, which is the drive to identify (and respond to) someone else’s thoughts and feelings. The systemizing/empathizing theory is a new model for characterizing typical sex differences.
At school I hated science but loved drama and languages. Does this make me an “empathizer?”
These profiles don’t describe all boys and girls, and you can’t pre-judge the type of mind an individual has just by their sex. Whenever we try to profile people we use a range of measures, not just what toys you liked or what subjects you enjoyed, but it does sound like you had a natural tendency to be drawn to people, rather than to the mechanical.
So how should we approach the differences in the sexes? Should we challenge them or accept them?
Well, these are tough decisions. In general it’s good to give children as wide a choice as possible, and there is no harm in encouraging children to play with “typical” toys for the opposite sex. But whether we should be trying to change children is a more ethical decision; I think we should be supporting a child’s interests, whatever they are.
You can read the rest of the article here; Sugar & Spice: Unearthing the Gender Divide
As a female LEGO fan I found the article interesting in itself, (also the post at Smithsonian that traces the color pink through history as a mostly boy-color), but the fact that LEGO was repeatedly referred to as a boy-toy was disheartening.
I guess the LEGO company hasn’t been doing a very good job at establishing themselves as an at least gender-neutral toy in the minds of parents, or even world-renown professors who study such things. 🙁
” What about Belville, and Scala?” you may ask. Well, from this article at least, it doesn’t seem like they had made much of an impression in balancing out LEGO’s one-sided gender image. We will see if this image will change at all with the new “Friends” line from LEGO coming out next year.
As a female LEGO enhusiast, what do you think? (Okay, guys, are welcome to share your opinions too!) 😉
Oh, and here are some convenient links to other posts in this series:
I do not agree, LEGO is for boys as well as girls, even though they might play differently with it.
LEGO has from the start promoted LEGO for boys and girls.
Think homemaker, I as a boy wouldn’t wanne be found with them as a kid….
Boys and girls ARE different, no use trying to change that.
I have two girls and one boy, they are different, all three.
So besides it being easy to put boys and girls in a differen box, I don’ think it’t really accurate.
My girls love LEGO castle, they just play different stories with them then most boys would:)
Maxx, with 3 children you probably know just as much as any world expert! It is just sad that LEGO is viewed this way in the eyes of the general public. 😥
Interesting that you mention Homemaker. That was definitely targeted to girls, and this made me remember that the old sets/broshures and posters I have seen from Gary all show both boys and girls playing with LEGO sets. Whereas on recent advertisements I have really only seen boys. Except on sets specifically targeted for girls. You know what I mean? What do you think?
Nearly all the old sets, advertisements etc that I have and have seen, show boys and girls.
But I think you are right, lately it has been more focussed on boys.
There is always town, which I still find both boy and girl LEGO.
The one sided vision comes from our LEARNED ways, boys play with building things, girls with dolls.
This sets the tone and manygirls will never get LEGO sets.
I know a few women that never got LEGO as a kid and were very jealous of the brother or neighbour when they did get LEGO.
In a way it’s how we are made, but also how we are raised.
Parents play a big role in getting their kids to play with LEGO.
You can’t just give a kid LEGO and expect it to like it, you have to play with them, show them how to.
Love these latest blogs, they are fun(c:
Maxx, good points! I’m so glad my dad is an architect! We never had a shortage of LEGO! And he always built with us, and also used it for his work. And as the oldest, I always had the best sets. Of course if my siblings would comment here, they may talk about how they got traumatized by me having the better LEGO. To my defense; I was better at taking care of it. But they may have an other opinion…
But that is revealing; that there are girls who yearn to play with LEGO, but they are not given a chance. Maybe that is why some of the female commenters expressed some guilt in regards to LEGO. That is sad… But now as adults those same girls can choose to overcome those limitations and play with whatever they want! 😛
Good thing is that you are also a cool LEGO dad for your kids! I wonder if they gonna like 2x4s! 😉
Author where can I subscribe to the rss feed?
Top right-hand corner. 😉
Where to start with this?
First I have to say that the above advertisement from Lego featuring the girl with her creation and the words “What it is, is Beautiful” is going on my desktop right now.
That image is simply Pure Joy.
Re: The boy/girl argument:
I don’t believe Lego is intrinsically a boys toy, not at all, not in the slightest.
Is it marketed as such?
Yes it is.
Do I like that?
Do I want to help Lego change that?
Would I ever criticise and abandon Lego because they need to change this in their business model?
And really, academics and experts can only take you so far in this arena.
As a Uni student I was told Lego was a tool of consumerism, designed purely to sell more and more “products.” Only last night, I had a “discussion” online with a college professor who blamed Lego for “dumbing down” his students because (in a nutshell) the brand focussed on including instructions with their sets (you can imagine my response).
In the non-academic world of parents and kids, girls play and create with Lego (real system Lego) just as they did when that ad was so beautifully designed, created and paid for.
I believe Lego will keep trying and eventually find a theme and overall business model that suits girls and I will gladly try to help them find that focus by being an advocate for the “toy” I love.
In the mean time I watch my son and daughter create with Lego and smile :0)
P.S. Sorry about the rant. This topic gets me all emotive ;0)
Hey, Inger, I knew you will have a lot to say on the subject! 😉
Thanks for sharing your well-thought-out opinions!
Yes, there are lots of different kinds of people who have an opinion about LEGO, but all it matters is what they build. At least in my mind. 😆
There will always be things to improve upon and do better. That’s what keeps the company motivated. And maybe one day they will get us, girls too! Although I have to admit we can be quite complicated! 😮
I’m glad LEGO is doing great! (Did you read about their half-year financial report? Up 32%! Again!) And I hope they will continue inspiring future generations! And we can also do our part by continuing to build awesome creations! 😀
And yes, that picture is SOOO precious!
About your comment on criticizing Lego, because of a faulty business model. It’s a bit unclear whether you are referring to the product or the company, but I think that specific criticism could often be helpful.
One example is that the Friends sets were criticized for placing girls in passive, traditional roles, and this year will see a range of sets placing the girls in active roles as explorers of the jungle. I’m not sure how much this sub-theme is due to the criticism in the media and online, but it might be a specific criticism, and TLG has responded with a new product.
Good points. I often see people criticize Friends without actually being familiar with the product line. From the very first wave of Friends they did have sets that put the characters in non-traditonal female roles, and with each wave they have more and more; science labs, soccer games, explorations, driving race-cars and airplanes… it’s all there…
After just re-reading this (still love the subject, comes very close to home) I thought about showing this link.
It shows simply old boxes, I picked 1958, the start of the “modern” LEGO brick, but I could have picked any old year:)
Check out the pictures, click on them to enlarge and see for yourself, LEGO is for boys AND girls:
Nice! It is interesting that on the new boxes real people (or kids) are no longer shown. Not even on creative bricks-only boxes! What’s up with that? 😕